And there goes a regular. Earlier today, news spread that longtime Denton bar and music venue Hailey’s Club will be closing its doors on December 31, 2015, and that news has been confirmed by the venue. After an adventurous 12-year run, Hailey’s has seen an ebb and flow of national and local touring acts, a plethora of different owners and, most important, a serious loss of money — which is ultimately what will lead the club to close later this year.
Jennifer Gibbs, owner of Hailey’s and its neighboring bar, Dusty's, took over the club in October 2013. At the time, Hailey’s was “not doing well and losing lots of money,” Gibbs says. The previous owner had a smoking ban in place, which Gibbs believes was partly responsible for the poor revenues. The staff was opposed to the ban as well. Shortly after taking over, Gibbs removed the smoking ban, making Hailey’s a smoker's paradise again. As a result, sales went up for a while.
Gibbs opened Dusty’s Bar 13 years ago and has been the sole owner ever since. After purchasing Hailey's, Gibbs added a door that connects it to Dusty’s. Seeing the management and ownership at Hailey’s constantly change made her realize the current business model was not working. “The model hasn’t worked well for anyone,” she says.
After Hailey's as we know it closes its doors at year's end, there will be two new concepts to follow: One rolls out at the beginning of 2016 along with the club’s new name; the other will debut around March. Gibbs says they had not planned on revealing any of this information for another couple of weeks, however due to "unforeseen circumstances," the venue has made part of its announcement a little earlier than planned. Both concepts will be non-smoking (despite that you can light up in Hailey’s right now, as we speak), and neither will specifically be a music venue or club.
"Both concepts are very different and sustainable. Neither will be a music venue or club, but both will be able to better support the music community," Gibbs says. In short, she explains, "We cannot effectively support the bands anymore."
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There's live music in Denton nearly every single night of the week, and at several different (non-club) locations. Hell, even Rusty Taco does live music now — for free, or the cost of your dinner. Dan’s Silverleaf caters to a more specific crowd and definitely has a solid following who will show up for a new act on a Tuesday night. Rockin' Rodeo is twice the size and can book the same shows at cheaper ticket costs. Harvest House has a capacity of 600 and has free shows all the time. Hailey’s didn’t have any of that going for it.
More than that, anything Hailey’s books has been completely on the musicians; the venue itself doesn't promote its shows, leaving it up to the performers to get fans in the door. "For about eight months I paid a promotions company thousands of dollars, but the net result wasn't worth it," Gibbs says. She admits that poses and added challenge: "It's not like places like Dan's where they have successfully built in a crowd. If the bands or musicians don't draw a crowd, they get no exposure and can't make any money."
Still, Gibbs is hoping that Hailey's — which most longtime Dentonites will remember most fondly for its legendary run of '80s dance nights in the mid-2000s — won't go out with a whimper. While its website is already offline and its social media hasn't been updated in two weeks, she says things will be "business as usual," with Project Pat scheduled to play November 20 and plans in the works for a couple more shows before the end of the year, including an Afroman farewell show.
"We'd like to see Hailey's going out as an iconic venue retiring, and give it a proper send-off," Gibbs says. "Let's send it off with a bang, in the style that Hailey's deserves."